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What is a Good ERA for a Starting Pitcher?

When looking at a starting pitcher’s ERA, you may be confused about what is considered a good ERA. After all, it’s just a number on a baseball scoreboard that doesn’t tell you how that number compares to the rest of the league. So I decided to do some research and find out the answer for anyone else who may be interested in knowing what is a good ERA for a starting pitcher.

In general, an ERA between 3.00 – 4.00 is considered a good ERA for a starting pitcher. Anything lower than a 3.00 is excellent. As a whole, starting pitchers in the Major Leagues have an average ERA of 4.22.

Shoulders-down view of a pitcher in a red jersey lifting his leg to deliver a pitch
Baseball player wearing uniform throwing baseball

A good ERA is essential for successful pitchers. If you want to know more details about a “good” ERA, including some ERA stats for starting pitchers, keep reading!

This article specifically discusses a good ERA for starting pitchers. For more information on ERA for all pitchers, read more about what is a good ERA in baseball. Or learn about what is an ERA by reading A Beginner’s Guide to Baseball’s ERA Statistic.

What is an ERA?

ERA stands for “earned run average.” It is the average number of earned runs a pitcher gives up for every nine innings pitched. You would calculate someone’s ERA by dividing the number of earned runs by the number of innings the pitcher pitched and multiplying that number by 9. This would determine a pitcher’s ERA.

This means that is better when a pitcher’s ERA is as low as you can get it. The lower the better! Learn more by reading my other article on whether a high ERA is good or bad in baseball.

What is Considered a “Good” ERA for a Starting Pitcher?

Baseball pitcher finishing his pitch while watching a right-handed batter make contact with the pitch

The best place to start to answer this question is by looking at what is generally considered the best ERA for a starting pitcher. If we look at a list of pitchers who have won the Cy Young award, we can see that the best pitchers from each league generally have an ERA ranging from 1.50 – 3.00.

Therefore, an ERA between 1.50 and 3.00 is considered an exceptional ERA for a starting pitcher.

Next, we need to know what the average ERA is for all starting pitchers. If you view the stats for starting pitchers over a 10-year period, you’ll see starting pitchers have an average ERA of 4.22. In fact, those stats are listed in the table below.

Average ERA of 4.22 for Starting Pitchers From 2012 – 2021 Season

YearInnings PitchedEarned RunsERA
Stats are from Baseball-Reference

And now that we know what is considered an exceptional ERA and an average ERA, we can make a fairly educated guess on what is considered a “good” ERA for a starting pitcher. Remember, a “good” ERA is fairly subjective and it can vary depending upon who you ask, but most baseball fans would agree with the table below.

ERA Ratings for Starting Pitchers in the MLB

RatingEarned Run Average (ERA)
Exceptional 2.00 and below
Excellent 2.00-3.00
Good 3.00-4.00
Below Average5.00-6.00
Poor6.00 and above

By looking at the table above, you can see that there are specific meanings to each rating. The average ERA is generally between 4.00 and 5.00. Anything below or above that then has specific meanings.

If you want to have a successful career as a starting pitcher, you are most likely going to have to have an earned run average of 4.00 or less. If you want to win the Cy Young award, then you’ll have to be in the “Exceptional” or “Excellent” rating. The lower you can get your ERA, the better chances you have of being a great starting pitcher!

A lot of people might be under the impression that starting pitchers have a lower ERA than other types of pitchers. As it turns out, that is not the case! Learn more about what is a good ERA for a relief pitcher and what is a good ERA for a closer.

And if you’re interested in how to calculate your own ERA, read more about the 3 steps to calculating a pitcher’s ERA.

What if You Have a “Bad” ERA?

A “bad” ERA is considered bad if you have a score of anything above a 5.00. If you have a bad ERA, the best thing to do is to focus on your pitching fundamentals. The better your fundamentals, the better chance you have of succeeding. Learn more about the 6 fundamentals of pitching in baseball.

Also keep in mind that ERA only takes into account earned runs and sometimes scoring a run as an earned run is subjective. Read more about what makes a run an earned run to see if any of your runs should have been counted as unearned, which would lower your ERA.

Lowest ERA for Starting Pitcher

Technically, any pitcher can have any number of ERA scores, low or high. But, there is someone in our history who has a significantly low ERA score. Baseball pitcher Tim Keefe began his pitching career with an ERA of 0.86 by pitching in 12 games during the 1880 season. Extremely impressive, right? This incredibly low score led Keefe to be one of the only pitchers with such a low ERA for an entire season.

Some people considered Tim Keefe one of the best pitchers in history. This score is almost impossible, as baseball has changed quite a bit since 1880, but a 0.86 ERA is still technically possible. This score can be a goal for you to help get your ERA as low as you possibly can!

The Highest ERA is an Infinity ERA

A low ERA is impressive, but having an infinity ERA is also quite impressive. Only a handful of MLB pitchers have been credited with an infinity ERA, but it is extremely rare because of how quickly a pitcher would need to give up a run, come out of the game, and not pitch again for the entire season.

Learn more about how to get an infinity ERA in baseball.

Importance of a Pitcher’s ERA

Shoulders-down view of a baseball pitcher in a white uniform following through after delivering a pitch

Another question you may have about ERA is: what is the importance of a starting pitcher’s ERA?

A pitcher’s ERA determines how good the pitcher really is. If a pitcher has an ERA of 4.00 or below, or even better, an ERA score of 2.00 or below, this means that the pitcher’s performance is stronger. The lower the ERA score the better, and the lower the ERA score, the stronger the pitcher’s performance is.

If the pitcher’s ERA is lower than average, and their performance is stronger than average, this will help determine a pitcher’s career trajectory and their success in the baseball industry.

ERA was made and is calculated to determine a pitcher’s playability and success on the field, therefore determining whether or not the pitcher would be successful for the team. This tool for calculating a pitcher’s success is one that is essential and very important in a starting pitcher’s career!

Although ERA is widely used to judge a pitcher’s performance, there are also a lot of people who don’t believe in using ERA because it is a flawed statistic. Learn more about the 4 pros and 4 cons of using ERA as a statistic so you can better understand why you shouldn’t solely rely on this statistic.

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Steve Nelson

I'm the owner of Baseball Training World. I live in Denver, Colorado and I enjoy playing baseball in an adult baseball team in the surrounding area. Read more about Steve Nelson.

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